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Romer takes readers on a historical journey of several thousand years. Along the way he moves from evaluating history's place in the Bible to the Bible's place in history. Though his lively style makes the long trek easy for the nonspecialist, this very ease, combined with an air of authority, is at the same time a disadvantage. Romer warns against using archaeology and ancient history to prove the Bible true, yet he uses these same disciplines to prove the Bible at best unprovable. The most he will grant is that the Bible's portrait of its world is in keeping with what is known from nonbiblical sources. In addition, he views the Bible and the faiths it chronicles as amalgams of bits and pieces of the religions and cultures they encountered. Some influence is certain, but Romer overstates the case. An interesting work that, unfortunately, lacks balance.-- Craig W. Beard, Harding Univ. Lib., Searcy, Ark.

Notwithstanding the Old Testament account of the Israelites' enslavement in ancient Egypt, Romer claims that slavery on the scale described in the Book of Exodus simply did not exist there. Biblical scribes grafted the theme of national liberation--distilled from the Jews' subjugation in Babylon and Roman Judaea--onto this earlier epoch, he argues. Elsewhere, he draws remarkable parallels between the Genesis creation myth and Enuma Elish , a Mesopotamian epic. In this provocative and entertaining synthesis, a tie-in with a TV series, the noted Egyptologist gauges the historical validity of the Bible against archeological records and early texts. Through his wide-angled focus (enhanced with scores of illustrations), we look afresh at the New Testament, ``a soup with many exotic ingriedients,'' born amid a multiplicity of sects and faiths. In the book's second half, which traces the Bible's impact over the centuries, there are brilliant cameos: Constantine plundering his empire to decorate his Christian city of Constantinople; Petrarch, hit by a flash of revelation while climbing Mount Ventoux; Jerome, Irenaeus, Luther, Henry VIII, Gutenberg, Galileo, Thomas Huxley. Romer is a superb storyteller, and this history stands on its own, quite apart from the TV series. (Apr.)

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